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PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Illinois and Rutgers are struggling and facing quarterback questions.The Illini (1-4, 0-2 Big Ten) are worried about Wes Lunt heading into Saturdays game at High Point Solutions Stadium. He hurt his back last week and his status is unclear.Chaye Crouch filled in and did well, running for 137 yards and two touchdowns against Purdue.Chris Laviano of Rutgers has not lost his starting job, but he hasnt gotten a vote of confidence from coach Chris Ash with the Scarlet Knights (2-4, 0-3) and on a three-game losing streak.Last week against No. 4 Michigan, Laviano was pulled in the second half in a 78-0 loss. TCU transfer Zach Allen replaced him and didnt do much. Giovanni Rescigno hasnt gotten a lot of playing time.Freshman Tylin Oden has shown flashes and looks to be the quarterback of the future. He can run, but his passing game is a question mark.That leaves Ash with questions.Illinois coach Lovie Smith has faith in both his quarterbacks.Very confident on what we can do with Chayce running the offense. ... I really like what he was able to do, Smith said. If Wes cant go of course.The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder has shown to be a fearless runner. However, Smith wants to make sure he says healthy.`Hey Chayce, `its OK to slide. Hes going head first. But we needed that. He brought energy, Smith said. Eventually youre going to get an opportunity, but you need to be ready.For Rutgers, just about every quarterback should be ready.Weve played three different quarterbacks, really four with the one play that Gio had. But we have to continue to try to find consistent play at that position, Ash said.Some things to note for Rutgers vs. Illinois:SHORT SERIES HISTORYIllinois and Rutgers have played twice (2005 and 2006), splitting the home-and-home series. This is their first Big Ten contest.BIG LOSSESAfter a tough loss against Iowa to open Big Ten play, Rutgers has lost to No. 2 Ohio State and No. 4 Michigan by a combined 136-0 margin.The players have been outstanding, Ash said. I think there was more hang over after the Ohio State loss. Because I thought coming out of Iowa we had some pretty good confidence. We didnt win the game, but I thought we played well enough to give ourselves an opportunity to win the game.Ohio State shook Rutgers confidence and Michigan simply overpowered Scarlet Knights.PENALTIESIllinois leads the Big Ten in both penalties committed with 46 and yards lost to flags at 375. Penalties were a problem for both teams in Illinois 34-31 overtime loss to Purdue last week, including a handful of flags for unsportsmanlike conduct, roughing the passer and targeting (Illini defensive end Carroll Phillips ejected) as the tight game grew more and more tense.Illinois linebacker Hardy Nickerson said his team needs to do a better job of playing under control, but acknowledged that can be a challenge.Football is an emotional game, so each guy has a one-on-one battle with the opponent. Sometimes those matchups can get heated, the graduate transfer said.RUNNING SUCCESSThe Illini offense is quietly finding success on the ground this fall, behind a trio of backs. Kendrick Foster leads with 276 yards on 41 carries and four touchdowns, but right behind him is freshman Reggie Corbin with 235 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. KeShawn Vaughn, who started the season as the go-to tailback, has dropped down the depth chart but is still contributing, with 219 yards on 43 carries and two scores.Thats the one position Ive been pretty pleased with, Smith said.OFFENSIVE LINE STRUGGLESAsh and offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer put much of the offensive struggles -- five completions and 155 total offensive yards in the last two games -- on the offensive line.Everything we do starts up front, Ash said. We have to play better on the offensive line. Weve struggled to run the football in the last two games. Weve struggled to protect the quarterback in the last two games.---Associated Press writer David Mercer contributed to this report from Champaign, Illinois. Patrick Mahomes Super Bowl Jersey . Pierce was ejected in the third quarter of Indianas 103-86 win Monday. George Hill stole a bad pass and was going in for a layup, and Pierce hustled back and appeared to be trying to wrap him up. Bashaud Breeland Super Bowl Jersey . That gave fans outside Joe Louis Arena another chance to ask for autographs from the 19-year-old whose stardom in the NHL has arrived earlier than most expected. http://www.thechiefsshoponline.com/Yout ... fs-Jersey/ . -- Stanfords Kevin Danser knelt on one knee and hardly moved on the sideline as Michigan State celebrated its Rose Bowl victory and his Cardinal teammates made their way to the locker room. Cameron Erving Super Bowl Jersey . DAmigo scored twice in regulation and added the shootout winner as the Toronto Marlies edged the San Antonio Rampage 5-4 in American Hockey League action. Khalen Saunders Super Bowl Jersey . -- The boos poured down on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots at the end of a horrible first half. This story appears in ESPN The Magazines October 31 NBA Preview Issue. Subscribe today!SAM BRADFORD APPEARS to be the least subversive player in the NFL. He runs between practice drills in his red jersey like a JV player trying to impress his coaches. He drives a lifted Ford F-150, the same model hes driven since entering the league in 2010 -- also the vehicle known for being the most popular in America. Yep, thats all I drive, he says with a shrug. Even his attempts at exuberance can go wrong. After throwing for his second touchdown in the Vikings Week 5 win over the Texans, Bradford celebrated by jumping into the chest of Alex Boone and promptly bounced off the 310-pound guard like a finch flying into a window.But perhaps the most Bradford thing about Bradford? The long, floppy sleeves that make it look as if hes wearing a jersey that has to be returned to the equipment shed at the end of the season. When his name is announced before games at U.S. Bank Stadium, he jogs out of the Viking-ship facade without so much as a fist pump. Slow and steady, he is nothing more than a guy whos been told where to go and is intent on getting there unnoticed, as efficiently as possible.When asked whether anything interesting happened to him over the past five months, Bradford says, Been pretty boring, to be honest with you. Nothing really comes to mind. He plays it straight just long enough before issuing a wide smile that reaches his eyes a beat or two later. Its phenomenal how hes mastered the art of saying nothing, but in a friendly way, Boone says. I love it.This man, whose unobtrusive personality has meshed perfectly with the impact he has made since being the No. 1 pick in 2010, is leading the offense for the last unbeaten team in the NFL. This man, whose career is distinguished by punctuation -- question marks for the time hes been on the field, commas for the vast amount hes missed to injury -- is authoring the type of personal renaissance that is already triggering a reconsideration of himself and the most glorified and overanalyzed position in sports.It began when Bradford was traded from the Eagles to the Vikings after Teddy Bridgewater suffered a horrific knee injury less than two weeks before the regular season. The trade followed an offseason that did nothing to enhance his reputation. Bradford signed a contract extension in Philadelphia, saw the Eagles trade up to draft Carson Wentz at No. 2 overall and then held himself out of voluntary offseason workouts in what was described by Americas sports media as either the dumbest or the most pointless leverage-free holdout in history.Despite the turmoil, and despite making it known after the draft that he wanted to be traded, Bradford didnt anticipate being a possible replacement for Bridgewater. Honestly, I should have, he says, but they didnt want to trade me in the spring, so I figured they werent going to trade me a week before the season.In Minnesota, Bradford got a crash course in coordinator Norv Turners offense, started against the Packers eight days after he arrived and has only gotten better since. Through four starts, he was seventh in the NFL in Total QBR and second to Atlantas Matt Ryan in passer rating among quarterbacks who had thrown at least 100 passes. Air-dropped into a new offense just before the season opener, he has not thrown an interception.In fact, Bradfords resurgence makes him the perfect subject to explore the cult of the quarterback, the cottage industry thats grown up around the idea that an NFL playbook is the sports equivalent of the Human Genome Project. How could he possibly grasp the convolutions and minutiae of an NFL offense, one devised by a legendary offensive coach, in just two weeks?Presented with this, Bradford suddenly turns subversive. He answers silently, with a cartoon eye roll, then says, I learn a new system every year anyway.ON SEPT. 3, a Saturday, Bradford and his wife, Emma, were taking advantage of a rare weekend without football to do some fishing in Oklahoma. At 8 a.m., Sam received a call. Eagles coach Doug Pederson was on the line, informing Bradford hed been traded to the Vikings. By 1:30 that afternoon, Bradford and his wife were on a private jet heading for Minneapolis, and two hours after that Sam was sitting in a meeting with Turner and his son, Scott, the Vikings quarterbacks coach.Theres no magic formula, Scott Turner told Bradford. Weve got to attack this thing. Were not going to ease into it. Were going to throw a bunch of stuff against the wall and make it stick.Starting the next day, Bradford arrived at the teams practice facility each morning at 6 to learn the terminology of the offense. At 7 a.m., Scott Turner would spend an hour showing him PowerPoint presentations of formations and pass routes before the regular quarterbacks meeting. From there, Bradford sequestered himself with film study before practice. After practice, Scott would summon a few low-level coaches -- or just random people, as Bradford puts it -- to run routes on the practice field. After that, Bradford and Scott would go back into the building and review video cutups of the plays theyd just walked through. Other times they would set up Bradford with a virtual reality headset, called STRIVR, to give him real-time simulations.Sams obviously a very smart guy, but its also him basically living in here, safety Harrison Smith says. Every time I was in here, he was always in herre.dddddddddddd If we were off, he was here. I honestly dont know how much he left the facility when he first got here.Bradford, typically understated, says he spent an average of 14 hours at the facility before going home to eat dinner and study more film. I dont know if I ever came up for a breath over those two weeks, he says. Definitely crazy.Running back Matt Asiata says, When he first got here, I looked at Sam and thought, This guy looks like a smart guy. He has to be. Norvs offense is pretty ... lets say its Spanish sometimes.Still, Bradford cautions anyone from making too much of his achievement. To me, you can pretty much learn anything, he says. Ive run pretty much all these concepts somewhere in my career. The concepts arent all that different, but the small details within the concept might be different.The way Bradford explains it, the hard part is compartmentalizing words that have different meanings in different schemes. Lets say green means one thing in Philadelphia and something entirely different in Minnesota. When faced with green in Minnesota, he has to translate it from the previous language. OK, what hits my brain? he asks himself. But over time, that fades out and this becomes your language. This is what you understand, so when you hear these playcalls, you get it.Scott Turner told him, Its like someone parachuted you into Mexico. You know what a banana is, but you have no idea what they call it.Normally, a quarterback -- even a quarterback who has gone through three regime changes in three years, as Bradford has -- is provided with at least an offseason to learn the new language. In Minnesota, Bradford had just two weeks.He doesnt know much about us, so hes just finding the open guy, receiver Adam Thielen says. The way it happened so fast, there was no other choice but to trust us.LESS THAN FOUR minutes into the Vikings rout of the Texans, Thielen runs down the right sideline and puts a double move on cornerback Johnathan Joseph as Bradford releases the ball. When it spins off his fingertips in a geometrically precise arc, its outcome as obvious as its spiral, you know precisely why he was chosen No. 1 in 2010. And as it lands in Thielens hands, as if dropped there by a gentle wind, for a 36-yard touchdown, you know why the Vikings gave up a first-round pick in next years draft and a conditional fourth in 2018 to get him to replace Bridgewater.Those who believe in Bradford do so despite his past, despite his injury history and despite an undercurrent of skepticism about his mental toughness. He missed the entire 2014 season after injuring his knee midway through 2013 and re-injuring it in preseason. He threw for more than 3,700 yards in Chip Kellys offense in Philadelphia last season, but 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions left critics unconvinced. Of the six quarterbacks taken with the No. 1 pick since QBR became a measurement of a quarterbacks worth, only the infamous bust JaMarcus Russell had a worse rating than Bradfords 49.8.But is it possible that quarterbacks arent out there by themselves?Minnesotas offense, after losing Adrian Peterson in Week 2, employs more of what Bradford does best: working out of the shotgun, throwing short, quick passes to make up for the NFLs worst rushing offense. In leading Minnesota over the Texans to go 5-0, Bradford was 22-of-30 for 271 yards and two TDs. But to get a clear view of Bradfords resurgence, you also have to look to the other side of the ball. The Vikings D, fast and nasty, is allowing an NFL-low 12.6 points per game. (By comparison, the Eagles allowed 26.9 a year ago.)As for the persistent suggestions that Bradford has lacked mental toughness, that causes Vikings tight ends coach Pat Shurmurs eyes to flash and his voice to rise. Thats so far from the truth, he says, leaning into the words. Shurmur was Bradfords offensive coordinator in his rookie year in St. Louis, then again last season in Philadelphia. He repeatedly says he felt responsible for Bradford in both places. In Minnesota, he was Bradfords most vocal advocate when the trade was being discussed. He got injured, and sometimes theres nothing you can do about that, he says. Along the way, hes taken some hits and matured as a pro. Not mentally tough? Thats the furthest from the truth when you talk about Sam. Hes tough as nails.I really think hes a different guy here, Boone says. I think hes more confident, more comfortable. I think hes not afraid to let it loose.Six weeks removed from losing Bridgewater for the season, and four weeks removed from losing Peterson, perhaps for the season, the trade for Bradford is viewed within the Vikings locker room as a message from GM Rick Spielman.It really showed the confidence they have in the team, Smith says. This isnt a rebuilding year. Its not, Oh, we were going to be really good, but now well just see what happens. It reinforced to us that the time is right now.Or, as Boone says: Sam came wrapped in gold.Its clear that the king of the eye roll wouldnt agree, and that the reconsideration of Sam Bradford will continue along its unemotional, monotonous path. The cosmic importance of football eludes him. He doesnt take himself too seriously, and he sincerely hopes nobody else does either. Hes been down that road before. He doesnt particularly like the view. ' ' '